Channel 4's Time Team series pits two differing views of the
West Saxon colonisation of Hampshire against one another. Robin
Bush's fascinating account of how the West Saxons conducted genocide
on the Jutes of South Hampshire meets Helen Geake's response.
The traditional view is that the area of Hampshire
covered by the Time Team Live dig, as recorded by the Anglo-Saxon
Chronicle, is where Cerdic and his son Cynric landed in AD 495 and,
after a battle at Cerdicsford (erroneously identified as Charford),
established the Kingdom of Wessex.
In 1989, and in a succession of subsequent publications, Dr
Barbara Yorke put forward an alternative theory, which has met with
general acceptance (I cannot find any historian or archaeologist
that disagrees with her conclusions).
She maintains that the
Chronicle, first written up in the late ninth century, wanted to
suggest that the West Saxons had been in control of their later
heartland from the beginning. In reality Cerdic and Cynric, if they
ever existed, operated in the Thames Valley, where their original
bishopric was located at Dorchester-on-Thames. They only established
their principal see at Winchester as the Mercians forced them to
move south and west in the seventh century (circa 660).
Bede, writing much earlier than the Chronicle, in 731, records that the areas of
Hampshire and the Isle of Wight were occupied, probably from the
fifth century, by the Jutes, who also colonised Kent. They continued
to hold this region, possibly as two kingdoms, until circa 686, when the
Saxon king, Caedwalla, moved south, killed their last (and pagan)
king, Arwald, and captured his two younger brothers. These he
allowed to be converted to Christianity before executing them.
Independently supporting this theory is the fact that Caedwalla's
Saxons were known as Gewissae until this conquest and that only
after 686 did they call themselves West Saxons.
Further support is given by the fact that Florence of Worcester
refers to the New Forest as 'Ytene' ('of the Jutes'); that
Bishopstoke on the River Itchen was formerly known as 'Ytingstoc'
('the settlement of the Jutes'); and that a lost hamlet on the river
Meon also bore the name 'Yte Dene' ('Valley of the Jutes'). Bede
also refers to the Hampshire mainland as 'the nation of the Jutes'.
Archaeology now supports these conclusions, as one of the only
other Byzantine buckets was found in the sixth century cemetery of Chessell Down on the Isle of Wight
- also held by the Jutes.